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Aalto Thesis: Boosting multidisciplinary collaboration and work-life relevance

Aalto Thesis is a newly launched model for an integrated project-based and work-life oriented master’s thesis, executed as a part of a multidisciplinary Student Team. The first Aalto Thesis Project, done in collaboration with Hoas, is about to end soon with several new Projects with various industries kick-starting this fall.
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Aalto Thesis in a nutshell

Aalto Thesis gives the possibility for a student to combine master’s thesis process with a project-based approach, multidisciplinary teamwork, and work-life connections with a paid grant. In the programme, a team of 2-4 students from different Aalto schools is formed to jointly solve a multidimensional Challenge given by a real work-life Partner. Each student creates individual thesis work from the perspective of their own field, guided by their supervisor, but the topics of each student are connected through a common Challenge.

Each Aalto Thesis Project is designed to last six months, during which a Kick-Off Meeting with the Partner is held, and lastly, theses works are finished. In between, there are fixed Status Meetings together with the Student Team, the Partner organization, and an Aalto Thesis Coordinator. The Project ends with a Final Presentation and handing in both master’s theses and a jointly written interdisciplinary report. Students are also provided with a diploma of completing the programme successfully.

Case Hoas experiences

The first Aalto Thesis Project is about to finish this August. The Project was conducted by marketing and engineering students, for the Partner organization Hoas (The Foundation for Student Housing in the Helsinki Region). The team tackled a Challenge of decreasing interest of shared flats. The research questions were:

  • How communal living affects student’s identity project?
  • How residents of HOAS experience the surroundings of their home?

The experiences from the first Project have been supportive and positive: "Aalto Thesis programme offered me a ready-made solution for the most important step – a company with real interest and the real need for my master’s thesis. It was a big deal for me that my work was beneficial", states Tiia Penttinen, a marketing student.

"The most obvious added value for the student concerning the master’s thesis, in this case, has been the possibility to collect exceptionally comprehensive data. Especially delightful has been the combination of two different master’s theses in collaboration with Hoas. Even though both work on their theses, we have already found results that support each other from the somewhat methodologically different studies", notes MSc Anna Kajosaari, Doctoral candidate and thesis advisor from the Department of Built Environment.

Aalto Thesis offered me a company with real interest to my master's thesis.

Tiia Penttinen, marketing student

“It’s fantastic to receive help” - Added value for everyone

"For Aalto, this programme offers a real environment for our strategically crucial multidisciplinary collaboration as well as a coordinated process to accelerate master’s thesis practices and the actual graduation'', emphasizes Aalto Thesis Programme Manager Niina Pitkänen. "For the students, the core of the programme is to strengthen their work-life connections and competences such as project-oriented thinking and multidisciplinary teamwork, which is one of the Insitute for the Future's Future Work Skill for 2020".

The project-based programme with real deadlines supports students to graduate with more than just a master’s thesis: "You just can’t prolong writing and doing the thesis just because you’re not in the mood for writing or the energy for it. You learn how to schedule this kind of bigger project in a new way!” states Penttinen.

"In my opinion, Aalto Thesis offers an excellent possibility for both multidisciplinary collaboration and cooperation with a company or a public sector organisation. From a thesis supervisor’s perspective, it’s fantastic to receive help from the programme in coordinating the process”, says Professor Marketta Kyttä, thesis supervisor in case Hoas from the Department of Built Environment.

For the Partner organisation, Aalto Thesis opens a path to combine the latest knowledge from different fields as well as get to know the potential future employees.

From a thesis supervisor’s perspective, it’s fantastic to receive help from the programme in coordinating the process.

professor Marketta Kyttä

Designing the Aalto Thesis 2.0

Aalto Thesis concept was initially designed under the Learning Challenge Aalto, one of Aalto’s joint strategic initiatives. Currently, the programme is being developed as a part of the national Work-Integrated Pedagogy in Higher Education (WORKPEDA) initiative funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture in collaboration with Finland’s top pedagogical experts in higher education.

Since the Aalto Thesis approach is still young and evolving, collecting feedback from all parties is essential. Aalto Thesis Team is also planning to evaluate how the general work-life competences develop during the programme.

In the future, an ultimate goal is to develop multidisciplinary approaches into university-wide collaboration both nationally and internationally.

Stay updated with the current situation by following the Aalto Thesis website, joining the Aalto Thesis mailing list, or subscribing the Teaching Lab’s newsletter. New exciting Aalto Thesis Projects will be kick-starting soon during this fall, with a wide range of industries from public sector and transportation to digital services.

For more information:

Check the website!
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